New Hydrogen-Alpha Solar Telescope

Lunt LS50T Double Stack

Lunt LS50T Double Stack

I am excited to have purchased a new Lunt LS50T Hydrogen-Alpha Solar Telescope at NEAF from Woodland Hills Camera and Telescope. I went for the double-stack option to narrow the bandpass to just 0.5 Angstroms.  It’s amazing how much detail this little 50mm H-Alpha scope delivers.  And since I can actually image the Sun from an otherwise non-astronomy friendly area, I can get my astro-fix in broad daylight.  Also, it seems the small aperture holds up well in poor seeing, another plus for the area near work which has horrendous seeing (5” is not uncommon).

Some of the first images I took last week were of sunspot AR2529 which was distinctly heart-shaped. I’ve added them to the Solar System Gallery.

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Releasing More Images

There are still many astroimages that I haven’t processed, or have processed but didn’t bother posting.  In an effort to revamp my own imaging effort, I will be releasing more images.  Some will be revisited, reprocessed, or simply posted for the first time.  Here’s a simple 2 panel mosaic from a one-shot color Parsec 8300M of the North America and Pelican Nebula taken in August 2011, for example.  It’s now in the Nebulae gallery.

North America and Pelican Nebula

North America and Pelican Nebula

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M81, M82 and NGC 3077

M81, M82 & NGC 3077

M81, M82 & NGC 3077

The shortest of the 3 images taken on the weekend of February 6th.  This is ordinarily a galaxy duo, but this particular frame also captures the more obscure NGC 3077 galaxy seen on the far bottom right.

Just 10 x 8 minute exposures
Sky-Watcher Esprit 100mm f/5.5
Canon 60Da
AP900GTO
Captured in Pinion Pines, above Frazier Park, CA February 6, 2016

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M101 Wide Field

M101 Wide Field

M101 Wide Field

This M101 Wide Field image also captures a few interesting background galaxies including NGC5422 (left) and NGC 5474 (right).
This was a welcome return to astrophotography after a 3 month hiatus, which had already been a sparse year since July 2015. With just one night to work with, the one-shot-color Canon 60Da was the camera of choice, and it allowed me to capture 3 objects that night. I’ll post those soon, but I will only add this one to the galaxy gallery since it’s been about 10 years since I’ve captured a wide field version of M101.

20 x 8 minute exposures
Sky-Watcher Esprit 100mm f/5.5
Canon 60Da
AP900GTO
Captured in Pinion Pines, above Frazier Park, CA

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Telescope for Professor Hawking

It was a tremendous honor to have taken part in setting up a Celestron telescope for Professor Hawking in February.  Since our first light experience in February, amidst clouds, rain, and snow in Cambridge, he has recently taken new astrophotos under better conditions. I am thrilled that he is enjoying his new setup and I look forward to checking out what he captures next!  I provided some commentary regarding our project with Celestron, which he has posted to his newsfeed: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=853418634745235.

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M33 Triangulum Galaxy

M33, Triangulum Galaxy

M33, Triangulum Galaxy

L 15 x 10 min, RGB 5-7 x 10 min each
AP130GT f/6.3
Orion Parsec 8300M
Taken in Siskiyou county near Modoc National Forest, CA

This image of M33 Triangulum Galaxy was captured in September 2013 and reprocessed in June 2015. This was my first effective usage of PixInsight’s Dynamic Background Extraction (DBE) processing tool which I applied individually to each LRGB channel.  It was helpful in removing color gradients in the image, allowing me to get more aggressive with color and background levels.

This beautiful galaxy is about 2.7 million light years away and is visible to the naked eye from very dark skies.

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Starry Night Over the Trinity Alps

Milky Way over Canyon Creek in the Trinity Alps

Milky Way over Canyon Creek in the Trinity Alps

Canon 60Da
Sigma 18-25mm f/1.8 DC (set to 18mm f/1.8)
30 seconds at ISO 2500
6 panel mosaic, each with the same exposure, no superimposing, all shown in 1 layer

This starry night over the Trinity Alps was captured Saturday morning, May 23rd 2015 from the Canyon Creek Lakes. Desirae and I backpacked into this beautiful mountain paradise and began to understand what the Trinity Alps had to offer. This awesome campsite was some 9 miles into the trail which provided the view you see here to the SE. The north had a view of the Trinity Alp’s highest and most craggiest peaks, including Sawtooth, Wedding Cake, and Thompson.  I was carrying the rather heavy Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC lens, not to mention a full sized photo tripod and the Canon 60Da. This extra bulk was arguably impractical for backpacking but it was worth while! Our campsite withstood harsh thunderstorms Friday afternoon.  I set my alarm for 1:30AM and woke up to a perfectly clear sky.  The few day old crescent Moon had already set, leaving only star light, perhaps some skyglow, and some natural airglow (greenish glow in the image) to illuminate the granite and glaciated peaks.  The Canyon Creek valley filled with fog which was easy to spot that night. This fog, blanketing over many streams and waterfalls, could explain the groves of coastal Redwoods that thrived there some 90 miles inland from Eureka.

Star Trails over the Trinity Alps

Star Trails over the Trinity Alps

Canon 60Da
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC
Single 75 minute exposure, no stacking
35mm ISO200, f/5

I believe in single shot star trail images because they truly capture and represent Earth’s rotation and passage of time, including capturing meteors and satellites, if they chance getting in the shot. Pure and simple, just a long shutter, same approach as a film camera.

 

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Camping Under the Stars

In January I joined a 10 week Wilderness Travel course organized by the Sierra Club. WTC provides essential outdoor training, safety and preservation awareness for the aspiring mountaineer or backpacker. The Orange County Whitney Group’s last field trip was in the Sierra Nevada west of Big Pine.  Snow camping was the intended purpose of the trip.  Camping under the stars was a terrific experience, despite the lack of snow at the campground itself.  California’s severe drought has a profoundly visible effect in the Sierras.  The first day of spring in the high Sierra looked like a mid-summer day based on the thin shell of icy, retreating snow.  Our day hikes took us far enough to experience some snow, and the Sierras still provided those rejuvenating qualities that Muir himself attested to.

The nightscape scenes were taken with a Canon 60Da and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, ranging from 20-30 seconds at ISO 1600. Speaking of that lens, it’s highly rated but this particular one may not be perfectly reaching infinity focus. It approaches but does not pass focus.  I’ll look into that but the lens’ potential is apparent. Temperatures that night started in the high 40s and dropped to the 20s before sunrise.  This was around the new Moon, so the only forms of ground illumination were some twilight (in “Orion Over Sierras”), starlight, and the campfire in two of these images.

Milky Way at Table Mountain Campground

Milky Way at Table Mountain Campground

Campfire Commune Under Orion

Campfire Commune Under Orion

Orion Over Sierras

Orion Over Sierras

Starry Camp Lit by Campfire

Starry Camp Lit by Campfire

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Coma Galaxy Cluster

Coma Galaxy Cluster

Coma Galaxy Cluster

This deep galaxy field was captured in February 2012 at Fremont Peak, CA using my refractor telescope. Although the Coma Galaxy Cluster is a fairly popular target, I was still amazed just how deep this galaxy field was, and how much the little refractor revealed.

Click here to see annotated version including some distances and apparent magnitudes.

Using TheSkyX Pro software to aid the location of these galaxies, I sourced some distant galaxies that must reside far outside the main Coma Cluster. According to their redshift and radial velocity, I found some more than a billion light years away! There are several more in the image, but I positively identified at least 2.
AP130 GT f/6.3
AP900GTO
Parsec 8300M
13 x 15 minutes L, 4 x 15 min each RGB

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Celestial Cave Painting

Cave Nebula, Sh2-155

Cave Nebula, Sh2-155

This image of the Cave Nebula is a HaLRGB blend taken with the AP130 Gran Turismo (w/Astro-Tech Field Flattener) F/6.3 and Parsec 8300M, mounted on the AP900GTO.  Image data captured in August 2011, reprocessed in August 2014.

19 x 15 minutes Luminance 6 x 30 minutes Ha Luminance 9 x 15 minutes each for RGB 2×2

The Cave Nebula Sh2-155 region includes dark nebula LDN1216 and reflection nebula vdB 155.

Astronomy.com Picture of the Day November 3, 2014

 

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